New Delhi [India], March 26 (ANI): The Congress on Thursday said that harvesting and procurement operations should be declared part of essential services during the lockdown, saying that wheat in an area of 334 lakh hectare was ready to be harvested and a farmer will lose 40 per cent of standing crop if he delays harvesting till mid-April.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala told media persons here that the government on Thursday announced a package to give relief to the vulnerable sections of the society and asked if "it is not too little".
He said farmers have been offered Rs 2,000 through 'PM Kisan' accounts on April 1, 2020, but they are entitled to get Rs 6,000 under the scheme in a year.
"The farmer should be paid Rs 6,000 on April 1, 2020 and Congress President Sonia Gandhi has suggested a payment of Rs 7,500 over and above the Rs 6,000," he said.
The government on Tuesday midnight went for the 21-day nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Surjewala said the principle question was how standing crop of the farmer should be harvested and 334 lakh hectare of wheat is now ready to be harvested.
He said 130 lakh hectare was ready for harvest in Punjab, 93 lakh hectare in Haryana, 37 lakh hectare in Uttar Pradesh and about 68 lakh hectare in Madhya Pradesh and in other states but the grain markets were shut.
Surjewala said Food Corporation of India (FCI) has not come forward with procurement and no gunny bags were currently available for farmers.
"How should the farmer now harvest and take his crop to the market for he cannot wait until April 14, 2020? Do we understand that if the farmer was to delay harvesting till April 15, 2020, he will lose 40 per cent of standing crop from which he will never be able to recover? So, for heaven's sake, we request you in a sense of spirit and cooperation that please listen to the woes of the farmers and ensure that harvesting and procurement go on as lockdown also goes on," Surjewala said.
He said harvesting and procurement operations should be declared part of essential services.
He also asked about relief given to those who have taken land on lease and were cultivating it.
"What about farm labourer who are poor people and largely from SC, ST communities who cooperate with the farmer but are not being given any relief. Please consider these aspects," he said.
He also sought an increase in relief given to Jan Dhan account holders.
Surjewala said that that additional Rs 5kg wheat or rice per person was insufficient and at least 11kg foodgrains should be given. He said quantity of pulses should also be increased.
He alleged there was wholesale black marketing of hand sanitisers and prices of vegetables were surging.
He said `mandis' should be declared to be an essential service.
Surjewala also sought relief for the middle class by deferring all EMIs up to June 2020. He sought package for medium and small enterprises and small shopkeepers. (ANI)